How to Train a German Shepherd to Not Chase Cats

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Sherry’s neighbor Sarah has a beautiful Siamese cat. Sherry has a beautiful German Shepherd. Unfortunately, the two animals do not get on beautifully! Sherry’s Shepherd chases Sarah’s Siamese at every opportunity. Usually, it is not a huge problem, as Sherry keeps her dog in a fenced yard, but yesterday, the gate was left open, and the Shepherd got out, saw the cat and chased it into the street. Both animals narrowly missed being hit by cars, much to Sherry and Sarah's horror, as they watched on, helpless to stop a near disaster!  

Even if you keep your German Shepherd in an enclosed area and on a leash, he can get loose sometimes, or a cat can end up in your yard. Perhaps you want to introduce a cat to your home. Whatever the cat scenario, teaching your German Shepherd not to chase cats is important for the cats' safety, and your dog's. A dog hell-bent on chasing a cat may not notice other dangers, like traffic, that could result in his injury as well.

Defining Tasks

German Shepherds are large, energetic, strong, intelligent, and often dominant and prey driven dogs. This means they are very likely to chase cats in their home, yard or neighborhood. Because of their size, a German Shepherd that is aggressive to cats can pose a serious danger to a cat. Even if your German Shepherd only wants to play, a 100-pound Shepherd that lands on a 10-pound cat can severely injure or even kill a cat unintentionally, not to mention the danger that both animals could encounter during the chase from traffic or by becoming separated from owners and homes. For these reasons, you are going to want to teach your German Shepherd not to chase cats. The appropriate response when your Shepherd encounters a cat in your home or neighborhood is to either ignore the cat or wait in a non-threatening and friendly position for the cat to approach him--that is, if the cat wants to. Cats can be rather uncooperative when your dog just wants to be friends!

Getting Started


To teach your German Shepherd not to chase cats, you will probably need to engage a cat. If you have a cat in your home, you can work with your cat. Otherwise, you may need to find someone with a cat that is willing to help out. Choosing a cat with a little bit of attitude, that is not afraid of large dogs, will help tremendously. A cat that does not run is hard to chase. Be sure, however, to protect both animals during training. You don't want your volunteer cat to be injured by an aggressive Shepherd, or even a playful one, and you don't want your Shepherd to end up with a badly scratched face from an irritated feline. Using barriers, leashes, and a hard sided carrier when working with the animals to provide protection is advised. Using treats or toys to distract and reinforce calm, non-chasing behavior during training will be required.

The Reinforce Ignore Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Crate the cat
Make sure your “ volunteer cat” is protected inside a hard sided crate or carrier. If possible, find a volunteer cat that is not afraid of large dogs, and not liable to become agitated in the crate.
Step
2
Distract the dog
Introduce your German Shepherd to the cat in the crate. Keep your Shepherd distracted when he investigates the crate. Call him away from the crate, play with a toy, and provide treats when he comes to you. Practice tricks and obedience commands give your Shepherd a job to do.
Step
3
Block the dog
If the dog tries to get at the cat in the crate, step between your dog and the crate, then step toward your Shepherd to create space.
Step
4
Reinforce ignore
When your German Shepherd focuses on you, and not the cat, resume giving attention, play and treats. Wait until your dog learns to ignore the presence of the cat in the carrier.
Step
5
Increase access
Put your German Shepherd on a leash and let the cat out of the carrier. Continue to insist your Shepherd focuses on you and not the cat. Play, practice commands, and treat your dog for ignoring the cat. Redirect as required.
Recommend training method?

The How to Be Friends Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Teach 'down-stay'
Teach your German Shepherd a strong down-stay command using positive reinforcement. Practice often and in a variety of environments until well established.
Step
2
Introduce cat
Use a brave “volunteer cat” or your own cat, in a hard sided carrier or behind a barrier, like a baby gate.
Step
3
Correct dog's behavior
Bring your German Shepherd, on a leash, over to the cat. When your German Shepherd sees the cat and lunges toward it, say “no” in a loud, firm voice and restrain with the leash by pulling to the side. Avoid pulling back on leash, which creates tension.
Step
4
Use 'down-stay'
Tell your Shepherd to go into a 'down-stay' position with the cat in the container or behind barrier. If your dog resists, create space between your dog and the cat until your dog obeys the 'down-stay' command. Gradually bring your dog closer as long as he obeys 'down-stay' until he remains in 'down-stay' in close proximity to the cat in the crate. When your dog is performing down-stay and is calm, provide treats praise and affection
Step
5
Release cat
Now let the cat out to approach your dog, if it chooses. Let the cat walk around and investigate your dog, continue to insist on the 'down-stay' position. Keep your dog on a leash or increase distance from the cat as necessary to achieve this. If the cat approaches your dog, let your dog sniff the cat and make friends, but ask your dog to remain lying down. If the cat ignores your dog, provide reinforcement in the form of praise and treats to your dog for remaining calm and staying down.
Recommend training method?

The Negative Association Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Set up stimulus collar
Occasionally you may not have access to a cat to train your dog, but you frequently encounter cats in your yard or on walks. If your German Shepherd is aggressive towards cats and you need to establish not chasing cats before a pet gets hurt, fit your dog with an electronic stimulus collar and hold a whistle. Make sure the collar is on the lowest effective setting.
Step
2
Warn your dog
Take your German Shepherd out on a walk. When your dog sees a cat and lunges toward it, blow the whistle and day "no!"
Step
3
Provide negative consequence
If your Shepherd does not respond and continues trying to get at the cat, engage the collar.
Step
4
Repeat as required
Repeat until your dog learns that trying to reach a cat has unpleasant consequences.
Step
5
Use in an enclosed area
When your dog is in your enclosed yard, fit him with stimulus collar and supervise. When a neighbor's cat comes into the yard and your dog notices the cat and moves towards it, blow the whistle and engage electronic collar if necessary to discourage your dog from pursuing the cat. When your Shepherd has learned to avoid cats he will be safer if he encounters one while loose in an open area, as he will be unlikely to chase the cat and end up in danger.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Mazzy
German Shepherd
15 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Mazzy
German Shepherd
15 Months

Mazzy was adopted by me in March.. she was cat tested and was found to be fine... personally I dont think she had ever lived with a cat.. she showed prey drive toward my cat and my room mates chi... she is fine with the chi now.. so progress.. we do not allow free interaction as she plays very rough.. she had met other dogs and is fine with them... but she will be "in their face" until they warn her with a growl or snap and then she backs off or shows submissive behavior..she is not allow around the cat unless she is on a leash.. she trys to chase and gets really hyped up when the cat is around.. I am too afraid to let her off leash.. I really do think she is playing.. but I have seen her around dogs she wants to play with .. and she is really really overbearing... she does not seem to get that they do not want to play as rough as her until they snap at her... she is really a very sweet dog.. loves people, children, basically everything. ( she is not aloof) when I take her hiking. she spends a huge amount of time trying to chase bugs and and looks for chip monks..everywhere.. so she definitely has a prey drive.. My daughters cattle dog mix has a prey drive too.. but has peacefully accepted my daughters cat.. the are now the best of friends.. do you think there is hope?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Angie, I would have to evaluate Mazzy's prey drive to give you a better answer. It sounds like it might be possible to get to the point where Mazzie and your cat could be in the same room while you are present. I would probably always separate them while you are gone though. To get to the point where they could possibly be together you would need to get Mazzie used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle for safety reasons. The muzzle would be worn during interactions while Mazzie is on a loose leash, just in case she decides to Chase and pounce still, since she is still dangerous with her large size. The muzzle would take the threat of a deadly bite away though so that you could work on interactions more safely. Done right, the muzzle should be comfortable for her to wear and not traumatic. I would also recommend hiring a trainer who is used using "working level" electric collar, e-collar, training. Working level means tailoring the stimulation to your specific dog by testing out what the lowest level is that she will respond to. A good trainer should know how to do this. Avoid anyone who can't when it comes to e-collar's. You want to find a trainer that is used to using high quality electric collars on low levels of stimulation combined with obedience and positive reinforcement to modify behavior. Essentially someone who can teach her what not to do and also what to do by combining the e-collar corrections with communication and rewards. You would teach Mazzie to "leave it" and "out" commands and use the e-collar to enforce your commands to help Mazzie calm down and snap out of her cat fixation. Doing this, you can build a calmer response in her and then reward her calm, correct behavior to teach her to act that way instead of overly intense around the cat. All of this should be done very calmly, not with too much excitement because she will feed off of your own emotions. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that she can overcome her cat fixation. If her response to the cat is to chase and play with it, then this training should help a lot with that behavior. If she wants to kill and eat the cat, then she may never be safe around it. A good trainer should be able to help you evaluate her though and decide if she might be able to overcome it during the first couple of sessions. To get her used to wearing the soft silicone basket muzzle, show her the muzzle during her meal time and feed her a piece of kibble everytime she snifs it, let's you touch it to her, or let's you put it on her. Start with simply showing her the muzzle and as she gets comfortable with it, gradually touch and hold it against her face more and more over the next two or three weeks, until you can finally put it on her, feed her treats through the muzzle's holes, and have her wear it around for up to an hour and she will stay relaxed and calm about it being on her face. Go slow and keep the training really fun with treats like kibble, or meat if she needs the extra encouragement. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Mazzy's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Galbi
German Shepherd
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Galbi
German Shepherd
5 Years

My dog always wants to attack my cat and various animals he sees as prey. He is well trained when we are with him but when he is alone with another animal it is dangerous.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, You can teach a dog to avoid cats outside using electric collar training done correctly. You can raise a dog to like cats while young. You can manage a dog's behavior through training while with the dog, but the only completely safe option for a dog that has prey drive and intends to kill a cat while you are away is to keep the animals safely confined, where one cannot get to the other one. Prey drive is an inborn natural instinct and things like noise and movement from another animal can trigger it. It is not something you can get rid of. Only something you manage and white gone you cannot safely manage it without confinement. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Galbi's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd